In almost every corner of the health service in this country, large numbers of staff are feeling the strain of a National Health Service (NHS) which is under intense pressure. Morale is declining, whilst many staff are leaving for a whole variety of reasons including feeling undervalued, budget problems and for some, pay and conditions is a big issue. In some areas of the workforce, there is a skills shortage and general practice is also equally affected. There were a number of letters recently published in the Times newspaper which highlighted very well, the issues currently facing General Practice, The ‘perfect storm’ facing general practice.
Depressingly, as winter is coming upon us-it could get even worse, according to a recent article in the BBC news website, The worst is yet to come for the NHS - hospital chiefs. “The NHS in England may suffer its worst winter in recent history if it does not receive an emergency bailout, hospital chiefs are warning.” Later on in the BBC article, a hospital chief executive mentions “"Our major concern going into this winter is staff - we are 50 junior doctors short on our rotas across the hospital. Every day is a constant struggle." Of course that puts pressure on junior doctors who are often young, inexperienced and even when fully staffed; a junior doctor’s post can be very stressful and sometimes it can stretch their resilience.
Yet I recently read in the on line version of the British Medical Journal, Junior doctors are threatened with GMC referral for refusing locum work that junior doctors were potentially at the receiving end of a possible disputed contractual issue. Irrespective of the nature of the dispute, this can only heap more pressure on those junior doctors who may be at risk of being affected. All these examples of pressure on medical staff just show that in many facets of our working lives, there are significant pressures. Although we are encouraged to develop resilience to these pressures; we are only human and it is easy to succumb to the many and varied pressures that are out there in our working environment.
As the pressure mounts on the NHS, it can only impact directly onto the staff. The NHS is hugely dependant on their staff’s well being to maintain a good service. Yet many of the staff are subjected to all sorts of job related pressures and it is not purely down to pay though that is a factor for some people. Working conditions are not easy and some highly skilled front line clinical staff are leaving, retiring early or going part time. This leaves a growing skills shortage made worse by the possible impact of Brexit and the current economic pressures that the NHS and the economy, in general, has to face. In dealing with the problems of the NHS, a key consideration is to look after the workforce and make them feel valued and supported as well as providing good working conditions and reasonable pay. An unhappy workforce will make solving healthcare problems in this country that much harder. It is an important and remediable issue that must be addressed if we are going to improve healthcare in this country.
Dr Harry Brown, editor-in-chief Univadis